Buildings along the Terreiro de Jesus
When you come to Salvador you must spend at least a day walking around the Historic Center and The Pelourinho, The oldest parts of the city. (see map) This was the original Salvador dating back to the early 1500's. Like many European cities built at that time Salvador was built on a cliff 73 m above the Baia de Todos-os-Santos (Bay of all Saints).
The Lower City from PraÇa Municipal
You can start your tour at the PraÇa Municipal, which is home to the City Hall, the City Counselor building and a state government building. There is also an Elevador Lacerda to the lower city.
PraÇa Municipal with tribute to Joao Ubando Ribieri
Our tour guide - Josuel
From there walk north along the Rua da MiserÍcordia to PraÇa de Se. Just before you get to the PraÇa, there is a store dedicated to the photography of Pierre Verger. There is a gallery of his work on the Rua da MiserÍcordia.
Once you get to the nicely shaded plaza there is a wonderful tribute to Zumbi dos Palmeras. Zumbi was the leader of an independent town of escaped slaves, made famous in the movie Quilombo.
Continuing on from PraÇa de Se you get to PraÇa Terriero de Jesus which is the entrance to El Pelourinho. El Pelourinho is the heart and soul of Salvador.
Looking around the PraÇa you can see 4 different churches. The two most important are the Catedral Basilica which covers the west side of the plaza and Igreja do Sao Francisco which sits a block off of the plaza. I will be discussing theses and 2 other churches in another post.
Start this part of your tour with the Museu Afro-Brasiliero, in the former medical college on the north side of the square.
The Amazing Ms. D at the Museu Afro-Brasiliero
This is a small museum that covers the history of slave trade to Brazil. It has a collection of African art. It also has a permanent exhibit on the orishas. These are the African gods and goddesses of the Candomble religion, one of the many forms of afro-latino religions across the Americas. The main part of the exhibit are a series of carvings by the artist CarybÉ.
When you are finished at the museum continue down the hill. You have the choice of three streets - Rua Alfredo da Brito, Rua Joâo de Deus or Rua Gregorio de Mattos. Spend your time wandering around the streets. Go into the shops. they range from typical touristy or some high end stores. Explore and enjoy.
One of the things you will see are silver charms called Balangenna. These were charms that were given by slave owners to slaves as a reward for something that the owner liked. If a slave could fill up the clip he would be granted his freedom.
Continue down the hill to the Largo de Pelourinho. This was the main square of the old town. It is where slave auctions were held and where runaway slave were whipped as punishment.
At the top of the plaza is Casa de Jorge Amado. Jorge Amado was probably the best known Brazilian writer and in the U.S. is most famous for writing Dona Flor and her Two Husbands. If that is all you know about him I suggest stopping in to learn more his extensive and fascinating career.
Largo do Pelourinho
The final stop in the Pelourinho is the Igreja Nossa Senhora do RosÁrio Dos Pretos.
Igreja Dos Pretos
Prayer/Wish ribbons of the church gate
The Amazing Ms. D at the Igreja Dos Pretos
This church sits in stark contrast to the Igreja Sao Francisco at the top of the hill. This church was built by slaves for slaves. Dos Preto translates as "the Blacks". I will have more to say about both of these churches and the Igreja do BomFim in a future blog.
Tuesday night is party night in the Pelourinho. Live music all over the place, especially drumming groups. It is not to be missed.
Dida - an all girls drumming group performing in El Pelourinho
Largo do Pelourinho at night
To Hire a Guide or Not????
I have always been a do it yourself traveler. I love the time I spend planning my next trip. I will consult several guide books, on-line resources and friends. To me the planning of a vacation is half of the fun.
But this trip, which I did not plan, but which was planned very well, had a new experience for me. Our group hired a personal guide for our time in Salvador. For four of our 10 days in Salvador (plus transfers to and from the airport) we had a native Baiano to arrange everything we needed to make our trip a success. And our guide was fantastic.
Josuel giving us historical background in The Pelourinho
Josuel was born and raised just outside of Salvador. He is a primary school teacher of Portuguese and English, and has been guiding tours for 18 years. He knows the ins and outs of Bahia and was great at creating a tour to meet our needs, something a larger tour company might not have been able to do. He is also a really nice guy, who made us feel like friends, even though we had just met.
Our stay included 4 day-long tours with Josuel:
1) A city/history tour
2) A visit to a condomblÉ temple and to a community organization
3) A beach tour
4) A trip to Cachoeira
Each of these tours included door to door buses, all of our entry fees and lunches at excellent restaurants. Now it is true that there were commercial tours available for some of these tours, but the level of service and planning for our group's individual needs that went into Josuel's tours made me realize the we were getting a great deal.
First, we would never have been able to do everything that we did without his planning. He knew all of the places to go and all of the people to get us in. This was especially true for the trip to the CondomblÉ temple and the visit to the community group Ile Aiye. I would never have been able to make arrangements for these trips.
He also added a personal touch to everywhere we went. He knew the people and the history and could tell us the behind the scenes info and made us feel like we were locals.
I wouldn't hire a guide for every vacation I take, but the next time I am heading someplace where there is not a lot of information available, or where I want to know and have access to more off-the-beaten-track stuff. Or where I am just really unsure of what I might be getting myself into, I would certainly look into finding someone local to help me navigate the territory.